Tag Archives: Streaming on Netflix

Lady Driver

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way at the top: the title. It’s a god-awful title that has no business being attached to a movie released in 2020. It sounds like the kind of thing a racist grandma would whisper to you, rolling her eyes, “Lady doctor” she’d say, as if that put her whole cancer diagnosis into question, like maybe that lady doctor was just on her period or something. Lady driver? As if she could barely handle the steering wheel with those delicate hands of hers, as if her stilettos would make for awkward working of the pedals, as if her manicure might chip from too much shifting. As if she doesn’t even have space in her undersized brain for anything other than making babies and making sandwiches. Lady Driver? Lady Driver? The only way this makes any sense at all is as an attempt to recall the excellent film Baby Driver, which only means that I’m further inflamed, as a woman and as a movie lover. In fact, you are encouraged to call female doctors ‘doctors’ and female firefighters ‘firefighters’ and female drivers ‘drivers’.

On to the movie. Which is about a girl, Ellie (Grace Van Dien), who learns to drive. As you do when you’re 16. And then she proceeds to steal the shop class car and run away from home, to “Uncle Tim,” her dead dad’s brother, long since estranged from the family. Ellie and her mom are having some pretty major conflicts so it’s agreed that she’ll stay with Tim (Sean Patrick Flanery) for the summer, working in his mechanic auto-shop. Except under a dusty tarp in the shop is a race car, and Ellie is drawn to it like her bra is lined with magnets. Sure she just got her driver’s license yesterday and she’s never seen a stick shift before – is that a reason she can’t race? Nope! She’s a lady driver after all. She just has to keep it secret from her wet blanket mother who’s a little touchy on the subject since “it’s dangerous” and “you’re a child” and “that’s how your father died” and similar lame mom excuses.

Anyway, if you’re willing to accept in your heart that driving is genetic and that girls can do it too, this movie is probably still not for you. It’s just not very good. But if you like dirt tracks and low expectations, this movie is “free” (with paid subscription) on Netflix so your risk is low. Perhaps not low enough, and that’s a totally understandable position to take, particularly if your worldview is already wide enough that you already think of lady drivers as just “drivers” in your head.

Once Upon A Time In London

Do you like the idea of a gangster movie, but find them too exciting, too violent, too sensational? Have I got the movie for you.

It’s based on real-life rival mobsters in London and my #1 takeaway from the film is: organized crime in London is boring as shit.

Jack “Spot” Comer (Terry Stone) and Billy Hill (Leo Gregory) are whiny little school yard boys. Comer elbowed out whoever was there before him and he can’t fucking believe that his own little protegee Billy Hill would do the same to him. So they piss and moan and act like bookmaking and racketeering are a god-given rights.

Old-timey Brit gangsters never had the benefit of seeing a Quentin Tarantino film. Or a Guy Ritchie one. So they basically have 2 moves: punching, and stabbing. Neither ever kills, so there’s just a lot of walking wounded, with dirty bandages on display (the NHS must not have been set up yet). They just keep beating each other up like they’re little kids, and they always live to bore me another day. It’s cruel.

Meanwhile, the newspapers treat the mob bosses like they’re celebrities. Everyone knows the deal and I guess there weren’t any police officers or laws to get in their way. No one seemed to really enjoy the lives they made; there wasn’t a lot of extravagance on display or good times to be had. Everyone was too busy getting blood stains out of white undershirts I guess.

The montages are brutal, the violence is half-baked, the power struggle is muted and uninteresting, and perhaps worst of all: the pauses. When gangsters aren’t punching their way down the street, they’re thinking deep thoughts. We aren’t privy to them but gosh the camera loves to dwell on quiet introspection. One such scene, taking place in a courtroom, feels like it goes on forever. Will it ever end? Not soon enough.

Real life isn’t all mink coats and gold chains and horse heads in bed. Sometimes it’s downright boring, just two blokes applying for the same job, even if that job is extortion. But the thing is, we can choose not to make movies out of uninteresting situations. Assuming you have stamps, please send director Simon Rumley a postcard saying just that.

Rising High

Sean called this movie Raising Hell for the first third of it or so, until we paused it and the Netflix screen helpfully cleared things up. Not that it helps to know the title, unless it helps you avoid it. And frankly, Rising High might have been improved with a little more hell raising.

It’s about con men after all. Greedy men who are money hungry and obese with ambition. Viktor (David Kross) is allergic to the poverty he experienced in childhood and is willing to do nearly anything to avoid it. He’s got the motivation and the slick good looks, and he runs into a guy, Gerry (Frederick Lau), who’s got the dirty connections. Once they bring in Nicole (Janina Uhse), a banker who values cash over morals, they’ve got themselves a perfect set-up. They screw over people like it’s going out of business. You only rise that high by stepping over other people. Generally, you have to be both skeevy AND charming to do those things. Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s cornered the market on playing skeevy yet charming. Before the fall (and there’s ALWAYS a fall guys), there’s usually a certain amount of gleeful over-indulgence. Viktor and Gerry go through the motions of course: coke, hookers, parties. All of it empty and unsatisfying naturally. And it’s not even fun to watch. Mostly because the movie’s just going through the motions too, copy-catting better films in the genre, nothing new to contribute and nothing charismatic in the copy.

This is a German film that’s as joyless as it is pointless. I was so bored that I spent most of the movie playing Dragon Squirrel. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it, it’s not the latest Angry Birds or Candy Crush or anything like that. Dragon is my shih-tzu Bronx’s favourite toy, though it’s really just the ripped open empty carcass of a stuffed blue and pink dragon at this point. Squirrel is the last of Fudgie’s (my Yorkie) trio of squeakie toy squirrels, also his favourite toy. The game involves me trying to steal their favourite toy, the dogs playing varying degrees of effective defense, and then some pretty epic tug of war once I have the toy in hand, me gripping the toy’s little ears, and the dogs clamping teeth down on their tails. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Usually I have a limit as to how much Dragon Squirrel I can play, and usually we make the squeaky Squirrel “disappear” about 10 minutes into any given film or series. This particular game of Dragon Squirrel lasted 94 minutes, uncoincidentally the exact run-time of Rising High. Because Rising High never rose above a whimper, never had even a tiny fragment of my attention despite the fact that Dragon Squirrel has now been played so many times the dragon no longer has a single tuft of stuffing left. The movie never gives you a reason to care for the characters, it never justifies its existence, and it never apologizes for being a weak copy of something better. I would have been more firmly engrossed by rewatching Catch Me If You Can for the 100th time, or even by rewatching Wolf Of Wall Street, which I don’t even like. So assuming you don’t have a rousing game of Dragon Squirrel to distract you, I’m going to go ahead and recommend you skip this one.

Roped

Roped just recently popped on Netflix and what you need to know about it is this: it’s like Footloose, but for people who don’t like movies.

You see, the rodeo has come to the wrong town, a small but self-identified “progressive” town in which Councilman Robert Peterson (Casper Van Dien), a staunch vegetarian and animal rights activist, basically convinces the townspeople to run the rodeo out. But he doesn’t count on his teenage daughter Tracy (Lorynn York) undermining his efforts. First it’s a small rebellion at the local diner where Tracy openly orders a cheeseburger. Next she goes to the fair grounds and – if you’re under 16, you’d better not look at this next part, it gets ugly – she Instagrams some sheep (no, that’s not a euphemism). And you know what they say: it’s a slippery slope between cell phone snaps and murder. And wouldn’t you know it, Tracy falls in love with a rodeo cowboy named Colton (Josh Swickard). The worst has happened. He immediately infects her with his side of the story. Her father forbids the relationship of course, because the town is into animal rights, not women’s rights.

But just like Romeo and Juliet, their forbidden teenage love eventually inspires the two warring sides to consider each other’s positions – but only after tragedy.

Roped is a very cheaply made and flimsy feeling film in the Hallmark style of romance over substance. Which, frankly, might be what you’re looking for this quarantine. It’s undemanding, harmless, and wholesome. It’s not a good movie, but I bet it pairs well with a big glass of fruity wine with an ice cube or two floating in it. Cheers.

Summer Night

Mere hours ago I wondered to myself what “the kid” from Boyhood was up to. I vaguely remembered seeing him in one other thing, maybe, and then all of a sudden this movie pops up on my Netflix recommendations, and there he is. Ellar Coltrane. So yes, he has continued to have a career after that one seminal experience. By the looks of him he’s had more movie roles than he’s had hot showers, but who knows, I guess “unkempt” is a look, more or less, and “shampoo” could be an allergy. I suppose.

Anyway, he’s just one of many 20-somethings in this film. Others are played by Lana Condor, Analeigh Tipton, and Victoria Justice. In a 24 hour period, they mostly mope about, wondering what they’ll do with themselves, bemoaning the state of their relationships while also avoiding their relationships, and just generally succumbing to small town ennui. Until night beckons, and they all turn up at a bar which may actually be the bar. As in: one and only, but not particularly happening. The bar’s about one third full, and not only does everyone there know each other, most of them are playing in one of several bands featured on this night, and yes, we’ll hear quite extensively from all of them. Not to worry, this still leaves plenty of room for exes to side-eye each other, and future exes to eye-fuck each other.

This is Generation Z, so they are named Harmony and Corin and Jameson, and nobody ever shortens it or gives him a nickname, it’s just Jameson every time because if his mama went to all that trouble to give him a name that’s as special as he is, his buds are all going to respect it.

They’re young and they think they’re the first people to ever have these problems, and they seem so important when nothing has really ever happened to you yet. I don’t think all young people are vapid and clueless, but they are in this movie, and it was nearly unbearable.

I haven’t been this bored by a movie in a long time. First, there were entirely too many characters, and it’s impossible to keep track of who is who. Don’t even bother trying because their problems are interchangeable and their identities are non-existent. It’s impossible to care for people you know nothing about and it is far too easy to be annoyed by people who wear “don’t care” as a badge of honour.

Between director Joseph Cross and writer Jordan Jolliff, there’s a lot of Richard Linklater wannabe-ism going on but you can’t really call this a coming of age when it’s mostly just a lot of treading water while having remarkable unprofound conversation. This movie has no spark, no joy, no life. Forgettable characters go about their banal little lives and no one gives us a reason to take notice.

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts

Sean and I are so movie-intensive that we don’t leave a lot of room for TV and we don’t mind that one bit. But we make exceptions for the exceptional, and if nothing else, Rupaul’s Drag Race is just that. Squirrelfriends, if you’re not watching it, I simply cannot fathom why. This is not mere reality television, it is LIFE. Over its many seasons we have had many favourites – and truly, with so many outsized personalities, it’s hard not to fall just a teensy bit in love with them all. That said, Trixie Mattel’s all-star win just about knocked our fishnets off with sheer delight. But with this documentary, Moving Parts does one better: it gives us a glimpse of the man behind the makeup.

Brian Firkus doesn’t get recognized often. Without a wig and heels, you might not guess that this mild-mannered, handsome man is capable of confidently captivating an audience, but in Trixie’s shape-wear and rhinestones, there’s nothing but sass and sparkle. Trixie is clearly the more dominant side of Brian’s personality; even outside of drag, he seems to reach for her persona and distinct speech patterns when he’s uncomfortable. But to give Trixie her own special trademark, he’s made accessible a more vulnerable side, channeling his life experiences into music. On stage, Trixie is vivacious and funny, but when she’s strumming a guitar, or playing an autoharp, she is somehow more than the sum of her (moving) parts. Like any great artist, from David Bowie to Dolly Parton, there’s a certain amount of glitter and pizzazz, but behind the warpaint is someone willing to take risks.

Director Nick Zeig-Owens documents Trixie’s enormous success, but if he catches her at her highest, he also catches her at her lowest. Trixie is a fantasy and a character, not built for disappointment, so it’s Brian who handles the blows. And perhaps the most revelatory nugget from the documentary is that Brian, unlike alter-ego Trixie, seems to be a bit of an introvert. So no matter how many people line up outside the venue just to shake her hand, or how many tiaras she’s crowned with on stage, Brian is at heart a humble guy trying to navigate the same murky waters as everyone else.

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts is a nifty little peek behind the curtain of one of drag’s most successful performers – but climbing to the top always comes with a cost.

The Yellow Birds

Sean and I have been sharing the 90s movies we’re nostalgic for, movies that I so treasured in my youth that they still make me feel young to this day. I wondered if there was a specific movie that made me realize I’ve crossed over to old. Does such a movie exist? I do remember watching a not very good movie called Better Off Dead and realize that rather than empathizing with the young John Cusack character, I actually sympathized for the dad. Gah! And lately, because we’ve been able to binge-watch 30 years worth of The Simpsons on Disney+, I’ve realized that when that show first came on the air, I was Lisa’s age, and now I’m older than Homer and Marge. Oof. But today I stumbled upon the real answer: war movies. I’ve never been more acutely aware just how young 18 is than watching war movies.

Daniel Murphy (Tye Sheridan) is 18 and still has no need for a razor when he enlists in the army. He makes fast friends with Bartle (Alden Ehrenreich), who is barely older than he is, but just barely is enough for Murph’s mom (Jennifer Aniston) to make Bartle promise to look after him. Then, before they can fully lace up their boots, they’re shipped to Iraq.

I think 18 is young to choose a major in college. Not necessarily for a lack of maturity but at 18 you’ve hardly seen the world, you hardly know the choices, or what that degree actually means, and whether it will actually translate into a well-paying job you won’t immediately hate. Eighteen is certainly too young to make a commitment that could get your limbs blown off – or worse. It’s too young to really understand what you’re getting into, and what’s truly on the line. It’s too young to understand the politics of war and whether all engagements are worthy (and even seasoned politicians don’t understand, but nor do they care – it’s not their asses on the line). It’s too young to really understand the sacrifice; the teenage brain still believes itself to be invincible. Statistics are just things that happen to other people who aren’t and never could be you.

It’s achingly young; Murph sees some shit that no kid should ever see. He’s not supposed to think for himself. Orders are orders. But killing people is killing people and young Murph just can’t make that right in his head. And I don’t need to tell you how very scant the mental health resources are in the army. The army eats up young people and spits out mangled bodies and mangled souls. Murph becomes a lost soul, disconnected and disillusioned. Bartle is haunted by that promise to Murph’s mom.

When Bartle returns home, his mother (Toni Collette) finds him changed, disturbed. But Murph’s mom finds that her son is missing. Bartle knows the answers but might be too broken to tell.

The Yellow Birds has uniformly stellar performances. It’s a little familiar, perhaps not a very distinguished addition to the war movie canon, but I do think its message is worthy. We all know that war is hell, but this film reminds us that the hell extends beyond the battlefield.